Thursday, 28 April 2016

Earthquake, wind and fire

Recently, I have attended my first Quaker meeting, and it got me to thinking about how I experience God, and how that has changed. This is about those reflections, and where I have gone through to get where I am today. The idea of how things have changed partly reflects the words to Elijah - although not entirely. For me, God has spoken through the Earthquake, Wind and Fire, and is now, maybe, speaking through the Still Small Voice.

I used to meet God in the earthquake - the noise, the unsettled reality. That time and experience helped me see God wherever I was, at work, in the car, in the city. I was not having to go somewhere else to find God, to experience him, because I could experience Him in the business of life. I still can - I have not lost that, just moved on. God is there in the noise, the music, the chaos.

I also used to meet God in the wind - in nature. Seeing a sense of God in the natural is important, and reflects (as the previous idea does) something of a Celtic perspective. This is not about worshipping nature, but about seeing God as a creator God who can be experienced through the natural world.

Anyone who knows some of what I have been through in the last decade or so knows that it has felt like the fire. It has been a difficult few years, and I still hurt from them, but I have found a new experience of God in it all. In truth, I am struggling to say I have found an experience of God through it, but I can hope that I can say this in time. I have been through the fire, and I have not lost my faith, which might be all I can say.

And now, maybe, I can find him in the still small voice, that is the Quaker style. I can't say that I will definitely stay with them, but the approach of being quiet, listening for God, experiencing him in the quiet. I think he has always been there, but it has never been where I have met him. I think the silence is nothing like as oppressive as what I call "Anglican Silence". The silence can be broken, and there is an acceptance that for some people it will mean nothing. What is more, it is only an hour. That used to seem like a long time for me, but I have learnt to manage that. It might be old age (I am sure it is not maturity).

Additionally, the "Anglican Silence" (not just Anglican, but it is prevalent in some areas of Anglicanism as seen in silent retreats in particular) is very much about "providing some input and insight, and then being silent to consider this and pray about this. I have always found that insanely aggravating, because I want to talk about what we have heard, to think it through with others.

The Quaker silence turns this upside down. The silence - with any words brought during that - are the place where the insights come. There is time to consider them, to work with them in silence, but then there is time to talk and discuss (if needed).

I should clarify that this list is not a hierarchy. It is not that I used to experience God in one way, and now I have matured and experience Him in a new way. It is that I change, and develop, and add new ways of experiencing God. It is descriptive of my journey, not prescriptive in any sense.

Why Quakerism? I think I have had enough of services, of the songs, the sermons, the prayers, the words. I have heard them all, sung them all, spoken them all, and they are no longer ways that enable me to engage with God. Worship that has none of it is different.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Cancellation - a short story

Mum was furious, of course.

“That’s unprofessional, cancelling at such short notice. What are we expected to do now?” Of course, what she did was work furiously to find someone else. But it was never going to be the same.
I had been looking forward to this for so long, because this was going to be a very special event. I know it was only opening the town fate, but he was going to be here, and I – as mums only daughter – would be in charge of him, look after him for the hours he was around.

Of course, at school, this made me the centre of all attention. Everyone wanted to be my friend – except Jennifer Oswald, if I remember correctly, who though he was a creepy old man. But then, she was never one to go along with the crowd. I looked her up recently, and found that she had taken her own life many years ago. That shook me. I wondered when I read that.

And yes, I loved being the special one for a change. I loved all of the attention being about me – well, about him, but about me being the conduit to him.

When mum told me he had cancelled, my world fell apart. It might have been the last chance I had to meet him – he was doing less these days, and he was rarely on the TV. This was my one chance gone.
Needless to say, the day itself was an embarrassing failure, despite mum finding some soap star who could fill in.

It was a few years later that he died, and it all started. I couldn’t believe it when the rumours started, all those people telling lies about him. Why would they do that? Why would they say that stuff about him, my hero. Why would they tell all them lies about him? He would never do that – he loved kids. I couldn’t understand why so many people wanted to make him out to be a monster. Stupid cows – telling their stories for their minutes of fame.

Of course, now I realise the truth. Now I know what he was, I can see. It’s amazing what hindsight does. Now I realise that I had a lucky escape. I used to think that the weekend was my nightmare when I had missed my chance to meet Jimmy Savile. I now realise that it was my lucky escape from rape, abuse, a nightmare like Jennifer.